Mulby Place breaks ground as part of the initiative to rebuild Downtown Linden
Construction crews have broken ground on two three-story buildings considered the hearts of what Columbus officials call the Downtown Linden project.
It’s an effort to add affordable housing and retail space in a neighborhood with a rich history but not much investment from developers.
The corner of Cleveland and Myrtle Avenues is the future home of Mulby Place. It’s where Mulby Brickyard once sat. Trucks packed Myrtle Avenue to get into the site as bulldozers dig the foundation.
Next door is Ena’s Kitchen, a Caribbean-style restaurant with long established roots in the community. Part owner Marlon Hayles welcomes the new development.
“We look at it as something that’s going to help beautify the neighborhood, possibly bring more jobs and more attention to an area that's been overlooked for so long," he said. "We’d love to see more pedestrian traffic and more people stopping in Linden as opposed to passing through.”
Hayles mother, Miss Ena Hayles, opened the restaurant in 1999 and has served as a staple of the Linden neighborhood. Hayles and his mother worked with Homeport, a non-profit affordable housing developer that was chosen to help develop Downtown Linden.
Mulby Place is described as a catalyst for new investments in Downtown Linden, to revitalize the neighborhood.
The name was derived from Linden’s past, the Mulby Brickyard, which provided jobs for the community over five decades. Homeport Ohio CEO Leah Evans said it was important to choose a name that connected to the community.
“We really found that building upon the history and identity of Linden historically really helped share where this project was going to go,” Evans said.
Cleveland Avenue is known for being the heart of commerce and activity in Linden. Leah Evans said that’s why the 3,000 square feet of dedicated retail space will face towards the busy road.
“There was a library, shops – there still are. It may not feel like it when you’re going 45 miles up Cleveland Avenue, which you should not," Evans said. "But when you do you miss that. There’s this vibrancy, this activity, community and neighborhood that exists.”
Homeport is partnered with One Linden, a group dedicated to a revitalization of the neighborhood. Several partners include Columbus and Franklin County officials, affordable developers, investors and community members that share the same vision for the future of Linden.
The collective has published reports that detail Linden’s rich history. It also shows the rate of change that has negatively affected the area, such as a lack of investment and diminishing populations. The partnerships are pulling together combined resources to achieve this effort.
The neighborhood may have a vibrancy, but research from the collective One Linden shows it lacks commercial investment and people. Many Linden residents have moved out in recent decades.
Back at Ena’s Kitchen, Hayles said they’re working to reverse that trend. They plan to develop more businesses along Cleveland Avenue. He hopes more people follow suit.
“We’re looking to put a bakery and coffee shop and I welcome any entrepreneur or developers that are interested in Linden," Hayles said. " This is a great place to start a business or to launch whatever your dream is. We are a gateway to downtown, a stone’s throw away from campus, Easton is not far and the freeways are extremely accessible from here. So, any type of commerce you can definitely come out here and thrive.”
Those establishments will be separate from Mulby Place. The rest of the building will be dedicated to the senior living units. That’s 70 two-bedroom and 30 one-bedroom apartments.
Carol Perkins is a 40-year Linden resident. She chairs the Northern Linden Area Commission and is an advocate for the neighborhood's revitalization. At the groundbreaking event, she underscored the need for senior housing.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to value independence that many seniors or older adults want and need," Perkins said. To be able to live on our own is a right, and not necessarily a privilege since our generation worked so hard and contributed so much to our community.”
Officials at the groundbreaking event pointed out that Central Ohio’s rapidly growing pace, increased property taxes and gentrification have pushed residents out of their communities.
Homeport CEO Leah Evans said that it’s been several decades since there was a dedicated senior living project in Linden. With Mulby Place, seniors should not have to leave their community to find affordable, equitable housing.
“They have their resources and their social network here and now they’ll be able to stay and age in the community with grace and dignity,” she said.
Green spaces like parks have also been allocated on the build site and the area will include public spaces for community members to gather. Homeport and partners also intend build up to 10 single-family houses in the area.
Other investments have been made in Linden as part of the revitalization effort, like the Linden Fresh Market and Charitable Pharmacy. Kenlawn Place, another housing development project, opened in 2021 on Cleveland Avenue. It houses 45 apartments.
Mulby Place is expected to complete construction in 24 months or by 2023.